One of New Jersey's most prominent high school athletics administrators has apologized for calling Adolf Hitler a "good leader" during a presentation to student-athletes at another school.
According to NJ.com, Nutley High School athletic director Joe Piro, who currently serves as president of the 113-team Super Football Conference that he helped create and develop into a national model, was speaking during an assembly on leadership and sportsmanship for spring sports athletes at Madison High School when he used Hitler as an example of a "good leader" with "bad moral character and intentions."
The infamous German chancellor and Nazi Party leader was shown on a screen side-by-side with a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. Other leaders pictured during the presentation included George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Derek Jeter.
Piro, 47, said he was trying to "make a point that a leader could have strong leadership skills that influence people in a negative way."
"The presentation was not to offend anyone in or outside the Madison public school district. I am truly sorry if I did," Piro said. "As a 20-year educator who has worked with a wide variety of students that come from very diverse backgrounds, I fully understand and recognize that Adolf Hitler was an evil man who used his skills in a horrific manner."
Not all students and parents in attendance were offended by Piro's presentation, but Madison superintendent Mark Schwarz wrote that some "voiced serious concerns that the speaker referred to Hitler as a 'good leader' in any regard." Schwarz added the "Madison school district shares those concerns."
Piro was not identified in a letter co-signed by three other administrators and sent by Schwarz to parents Sunday, but admitted Tuesday that he was the administrator in question. Schwarz said Piro's presentation was not screened in advance and was "unnecessarily provocative and insensitive."
Nutley superintendent Julie Glazer said in a statement the district was not aware Piro participated in the leadership conference at Madison and that it "shares his regret to mention Adolf Hitler alongside examples of positive leadership and over the inclusion of this insensitive reference." Glazer added her district "condemns all acts of bigotry, racism and hate."
"We believe in using this incident as an opportunity to highlight cultural responsiveness and sensitivity within our schools, curriculum and community," she said.